We were honored that the The Leadership Foundations Mentoring Network was recently featured by the US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Co-authored by LF Director of Global Advancement Noah Baskett and Janis Kupersmidt, President, of LF partner Innovation, Research, and Training, the article shared our innovative training developed during the pandemic to support youth impacted by Opioids and other drugs.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend of drug overdose due to synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl) has exploded. Mirroring this frightening statistic are equally disturbing trends related to increased misuse of various illicit substances by children and teens in the US. Over 50% of 12th graders reported having used alcohol, according to the 2020 “Monitoring the Future” study (NIDA). Vaping, while having leveled off in 2020, has also seen significant increases in rates of use over the past five years, with 35% of youth reporting having vaped nicotine or marijuana.
To address this challenge, Leadership Foundations (LF) asked innovation Research & Training (iRT) for help in providing training for mentors to address the growing needs of their mentees. From 2019 to 2021, in a unique research-practitioner collaboration, iRT committed to addressing this need by working closely with LF affiliates to learn about how the crisis was affecting youth in their communities, what resources LF mentoring program staff wanted, and what staff thought their mentors needed, to create and pilot this training in a program called Substance of Change. The goal was to develop a course to equip mentors to more effectively support youth who are either at-risk for opioid or substance abuse, exposed to substance use through friends and family, or in treatment or active recovery.
LF has served as a grantee of the OJJDP’s multi-state mentoring initiative since 2016 with 30 affiliates in 20 states and annually mentors over 1,000+ children and youth.